Wine & Other Stories

Fernando Almeda: profession winemaker

Written by Piero Pardini

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Credits: © Fernando Almeda Enologo

Fernando Almeda, Catalan by birth and Chilean by adoption, is one of the most renowned oenologists at the international level with a long and cosmopolitan career.
Having been born in Barcelona, Spain, a land with a high wine vocation, the passion for wine is a natural consequence.
Almeda used to direct the winemaking processes in Curicó, Chile, at the prestigious Bodegas Torres till 2019. Now he is consulting and doing his own wines.
Let’s find out more about his professionalism from his words.

How and when was the passion for wine born?
I love wine because of my grandfather who produced wine in Chile for 60 years. I used to visit him during my holidays. I remember following him through the winery and vineyards, listening to what he always was trying to explain. Amazing memories.

When did you decide that the oenologist would become your profession?
I always wanted to study enology. In the 80s there was a big crisis on wine and my family advised me to study anything else. After my military service, I decided to leave home in Barcelona and went to Madrid to accomplish my dream. It was not easy but I finally did it.

© Fernando Almeda Enologo

How important is it for an oenologist to empathize with the people who take care of that vineyard and those hills?
People who are involved with wine and vineyards have a special sensitivity. To experience life every year through the vines enriches your spirit. Every year’s conditions have been always different but changes are becoming more extreme. Only with this sensitivity is it possible to achieve a good result. Only people that work every day in the vines can feel and communicate it, experience is the clue. The sense of Terroir is not completed without the people who take care of the vines.

In the collective imagination of wine lovers, therefore, non-professional, the sommelier is the best known figure within the “wine” chain while the oenologist works “behind the scenes”. How much, according to your experience, are the two figures (if they are), in opposition and how much, on the contrary, are they (if they are) complementary?
The wine world has different and important chain links from the vineyard to the final consumer. By definition sommeliers and winemakers have a special relationship in this chain. They need each other. Sommeliers work directly with consumers and have this special relationship. They can give feedback to winemakers on how the wine is appreciated. On the other hand, sommeliers are fed by winemakers. How wine has been achieved is needed to understand and communicate it in a proper way.

© Fernando Almeda Enologo

The winemaker is also a controversial figure, acclaimed by most and criticized by others. You are accused of “creating” wines that must meet the canons of the guides, in short, please everyone. Fantasies, or is there, in some cases, a basis of truth?
It is a very controversial and fascinating question. Quality is a subjective individual interpretation. It varies depending on origin, style and price. It is defined by wine characteristics such as balance, length, intensity, complexity and typicity. A good rate is good for brand image and awareness, always needed for commercial purposes. In terms of wine seal of differentiation, there are different winemaker workstyles and different winery strategies. As a wine consumer, it is important to question if quality and rates are always in line. It is normally like that but sometimes there are surprises. As with everything in life nowadays, it is necessary to choose wisely. Gold glitters but not all that glitters is gold.

One of your merits and flaws, professionally speaking.
I have been in 36 vintages during my career, sometimes in the north and the south hemisphere the same year. I have produced a lot of different wine styles from a lot of different grape varieties, using different techniques in different parts of the world . Although I am proud to say that I am still learning every year and looking for new challenges, I have the clarity on the style of wine I want to create. Elegance is the key. This is what I am nowadays.

About the author

Piero Pardini

Founder and editor of "The Wolf Post", Italian based International digital wine platform.
Freelance Journalist.
Wine critic and Sommelier.
He has also written about sports and technology for some specialized magazines.
Co-author of the authorized biography "Gianni Clerici - The writer, the poet the journalist", Le Lettere, Firenze.

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